Members of the City Council are set to vote on Tuesday on a resolution by Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod "declaring racism as a public health crisis in the city of Chattanooga."
The resolution is also sponsored by Council members Erskine Oglesby and Jerry Mitchell.
The resolution says:
A RESOLUTION DECLARING RACISM AS A PUBLIC
HEALTH CRISIS IN THE CITY OF CHATTANOOGA.
WHEREAS, the foundation of America is rooted in racism.
The Black experience in
America was one of chattel slavery and Jim Crow Black labor formed the economic base for
American life yet Black America is still subject to hardships and disadvantages in every area of
WHEREAS, health disparities have existed in America since the birth of our nation. We
now are witnessing a pandemic where Black patients are dying at 2.4 times the rate of White
people. Black citizens are suffering in-part due to long standing, unaddressed health disparities
such as a lack of accessibility to quality health care; and
WHEREAS, current events of 2020 illustrate racism negatively impacts the lives of Black
people; COVID-19, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement have helped to
highlight how racism, not race, causes disproportionately higher rates of homelessness,
incarceration, and economic hardships for African Americans. Racism can be seen across both
institutional and interpersonal levels - operating over the course of time and across generations;
WHEREAS, the repercussions of historical racism cover every aspect of life, including,
but not limited to, discriminatory lending practices of the 20th Century known as “redlining”
inhibited the accumulation of familial wealth, limited access to quality food, reduced life
expectancy, increased rates of lead poisoning, limited access to clean water, higher rates of infant mortality, and bias in the medical professions towards black women demonstrate the current
impact of racism; and
WHEREAS, endemic racial bias within public institutions has been and continues to affect
Black Americans. This shows up in all aspects of social society where Black children are viewed
as older than their White counterparts, receive harsher punishments in both the education and
juvenile justice systems than their White counterparts, they are more often subject to punitive
methods versus therapeutic methods than their White counterparts regarding alleged behavioral
issues. This treatment follows Black Americans into adulthood through the court system via cash
bail, longer jail sentences, inadequate venues for voting, purging of voter rolls affecting Black
Americans in greater numbers than their White counterparts.
THEREFORE, the City of Chattanooga is engaging directly in a reform agenda for public
safety based on research and significant input from residents to fight racism wherever it is found
within our systems. This includes recommendations on reforming the Police Department, the
recommendation to push subpoena power for citizen oversight board to improve accountability
and transparency, in order to build trust between residents and our Police Department; and
THEREFORE, the City of Chattanooga also has recently proposed strategies to address
racial inequities in the Black Community by forming the Mayor’s Office of Community
Resilience. Office of Community Resilience is forming with the intent on recognizing that not
everyone in Chattanooga has the same opportunities to be healthy; recognizing the differences in
economics, housing, and health based upon race, ethnicity, sex, neighborhood, income, education,
sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors; recognizing national research which
demonstrates that the neighborhood one lives in directly impacts ones access to quality housing, a
good job, and a good education. Healthy neighbors have a greater impact on one’s health than
genetics or access to care. The Office of Community Resilience also recognizes that Black people
are not thriving at the same rates as their White counterparts in these areas; and
THEREFORE, the City of Chattanooga recognizes the privileges other Americans
experience which inhibits them from fully understanding how racism impacts Black people in
America. Chattanooga recognizes Black citizens experience certain risks with the performance of
simple tasks such as driving, walking or jogging in neighborhoods. Chattanooga recognizes life
events such as getting a job, purchasing a home, buying a car, or raising a family which comes
with barriers other cultures do not experience; and
THEREFORE, the members of the Chattanooga City Council recognize racism is real.
As a community, we must work together to promote equity and eradicate racism. Moreover this
Council believes NOW is the time to declare racism a public health crisis. The aforementioned
disparities represent a public health crisis which affects us all, and we as a civil society have an
obligation to raise awareness and make sure every sector of our society works to reverse this crisis;
FURTHER, the members of the Chattanooga City Council urge our community to
immediately take steps to address, fund, and support areas to strategically reduce the long-term
impact of the social determinants of health by reducing and eliminating preferential treatment for
the majority while subjecting Black, Brown, and poor White people to increased hardships,
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF
CHATTANOOGA, That this City Council does hereby declare racism as a public health crisis in
the City of Chattanooga and recommits our full attention to improving the quality of life and health
of our minority residents. The City of Chattanooga is committed to honestly and directly
addressing minority health inequities, including a systematic, data-driven focus on poverty,
economic mobility, and inequities other factors that may impact the social determinants of health.
Minorities are impacted more greatly by challenges and inequities in many areas, including but
not limited to, Crime, Social Capital, Education, Transportation, Employment, Food Access,
Health Behaviors, Socioeconomic Status, Environmental Exposure, Access to Health Services,
Housing, and Public Safety.
The council on July 14 is considering:
A RESOLUTION URGING THE TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO CONSIDER AMENDING THE DEFINITION OF “DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES” AS SET FORTH IN TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED § 4-21-102(4) TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS: ANCESTRY,
DISABILITY, GENDER IDENTITY, MILITARY STATUS, AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION.
It is sponsored by Council members Mitchell and Carol Berz.
Still another resolution on the 14th is
A RESOLUTION CALLING FOR CHANGE IN VOTING PROCEDURES BY THE TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO GIVE EVERY ELIGIBLE VOTER THE OPPORTUNITY TO CAST THEIR BALLOT WITHOUT THE RISK OF CONTRACTING OR SPREADING COVID-19.